Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 7/11/12
Here's the bad news first about the number of available football scholarships at Wisconsin for the Class of 2013: For the second straight year, it's small. Now, for the good news: Limited numbers also means Wisconsin can afford to be picky with its offers. If the Badgers' recent string of offers and subsequent commitments is any indication, they've done quite well despite scholarships being in short supply. In the past month, Wisconsin has received five oral commitments to boost its Class of 2013 total to 11. "Even though the group is going to be small, I think it's definitely a quality-over-quantity approach," said Allen Trieu, national college football recruiting analyst for Scout.com. The Badgers likely have just two or three more scholarships available for the class depending on transfers or NFL defections, but their haul thus far has been impressive. According to Scout.com, Wisconsin has the No. 28 recruiting class in 2013. For some perspective, consider that the Badgers have not cracked the top 30 in six of the past seven recruiting classes under coach Bret Bielema. Wisconsin's average ranking during that span is 41. And last year, the Badgers ranked 63rd overall. What gives Wisconsin such a boost in the Class of 2013? For starters, the Badgers have landed two four-star recruits, including defensive tackle Darius Latham (North Central High School in Indianapolis), who committed last Tuesday. "Wisconsin is the best place for me to reach my goals," Latham told the Indianapolis Star. "I'm looking forward to playing there and helping Wisconsin win and then having a chance to play in the NFL." Latham, a 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, is a two-sport star on the football field and the basketball court. The Badgers' coaching staff already has compared him to former Wisconsin standout J.J. Watt, now a defensive end for the Houston Texans. Latham picked Wisconsin from a group of more than 15 scholarship offers from programs across the country, including Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. "He's still learning," Trieu said. "He's full of raw potential. Great size. Great athleticism. Great physical tools. Once he gets into a college system and concentrates on one sport and gets the coaching he needs, I think he has a very, very high ceiling." While Latham provides size defensively, 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver Rob Wheelwright (Walnut Ridge High School in Columbus, Ohio) could add speed on offense. Wheelwright, the Badgers' other four-star commit, caught 44 passes for 600 yards with 12 touchdowns as a junior last season. His older brother, Ernie Wheelwright, played for Minnesota from 2004-07. "He has that sneaky speed to be able to run away from people in the open field," Trieu said of Rob Wheelwright. "Great hands. Great ball skills. Has some polish to his game. The biggest thing for him is to get a little bigger and stronger before he's really going to compete for a job." Other notable recruits in the Class of 2013 include 6-6, 240-pound offensive tackle Hayden Biegel, whose brother, Vince, will be a freshman linebacker on Wisconsin's team this fall. J.J. Watt's younger brother, T.J., also is a member of the Class of 2013 as a 6-4, 200-pound tight end. The rest of Wisconsin's recruiting class thus far consists of: linebacker Garrett Dooley (Rochester, Ill.), fullback Austin Ramesh (Eagle River, Wis.), defensive end Chikwe Obasih (Brookfield, Wis.), offensive tackle Jack Keeler (Barrington, Ill.), wide receiver Jazz Peavy (Kenosha, Wis.), defensive tackle Sam Raridon (West Des Moines, Iowa) and offensive guard Matt Miller (Toledo, Ohio). Trieu described the 6-5, 250-pound Miller, a three-star prospect, as the sleeper in the bunch. Miller chose Wisconsin over offers from Boston College, Miami (Fla.), Michigan State and Cincinnati, among others. "He's got a lot of tools that will allow him to be successful," Trieu said. "Wisconsin has put a lot of those guys into the pros. I think Matt Miller has a chance to be an All-Big Ten guy for them down the road." Trieu said he didn't anticipate Wisconsin adding a quarterback because of the addition of Bart Houston, a highly touted signal caller in the Class of 2012 which also included a small recruiting haul of 12 players. Wisconsin has picked up one quarterback every year since Bielema became coach. But Trieu added there's a good chance the Badgers could land a high-profile running back to help fill the void that will be left by Montee Ball, last year's Heisman Trophy finalist. Senior-to-be David Williams, for example, a 6-1, 185-pound running back from Philadelphia, has roughly 20 scholarship offers and put Wisconsin in his unofficial top 10. And if the Badgers don't land Williams, they're sure to fill a scholarship with another talented player. At this stage, Wisconsin can afford to be picky in finding the right player to fit its system. "Wisconsin has always been a team where the on-field performance from a lot of guys it gets outperforms the recruiting rankings," Trieu said. "That said, this class is already a good one." Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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